I grew up as a pastor’s kid, a worship leader’s kid, a speaker’s kid. To say we were involved in the local fellowship is an understatement. My dad pastored when I was very little, my mom lead worship and taught often at the place we attended when I was older, and eventually became a pastor herself of a Foursquare church plant in the city next to ours in B.C. I have set up chairs, stacked them, locked the doors, taught Sunday School, led worship, ran the nursery, I’ve even preached (terribly!). In my youth and adulthood I’ve carried on the mantle as a youth leader, a worship leader and a nursery baby holder. I’ve entered the stage at the exact right moment and been on stage with lights flashing as we lead, a click track in my ears, a voice directing the song over top of us singing it, cameras with their red lights blinking so we know where to look. I have seen what it takes to make a service happen on the micro, as well as the macro, and on both sides of the spectrum, there is nothing simple about any of it.
After years and years of being involved in the controlled chaos that goes on behind the scenes, last year I had to step back. There were far too many distractions for me to be able to focus. I needed to simplify, strip my worship down to the bare bones and get alone with the Father and hear what He was saying without having to strain to get the message.
This was about the time when I started really making my morning quiet times a priority, and they became the source of my growth. I would turn on a live worship album and just sit in His presence singing, listening, reading, writing, whatever struck me to do in those moments, I would do and the Lord was always right there with me, speaking freely to my heart. These quiet morning moments have become an absolute necessity in my life. That doesn’t mean I haven’t neglected them at times, and when I do, I feel the lack in my spirit, but then when I come back and meet with Him, my heart fills up so quickly that I begin to crave my time with Him again.
I think for a long time I was just putting too much pressure on the local fellowship. I was expecting it to meet my all of my spiritual needs — not that I wasn’t spending time with the Lord before, but I was going about it in a drive-thru type method. I wasn’t lingering, I was pretty much just presenting my needs and then walking away. I had a void in my heart and I was expecting it to be filled by an experience, an hour long gathering with a room full of people that I didn’t know and that the Father had never intended to be the fix. It makes sense now that it fell so short in my eyes — it was never what I was supposed to be seeking. When I turned my eyes inward, when I got fed up with the complications and distractions and truly simplified, everything changed and I began to experience a richness in the Spirit that I haven’t had in a long time, and all I was doing was sitting in His presence. My focus became about what I could get from Him rather than from a 4-song worship set. What did He have to say to me, verses what was the speaker saying to a room full of 1000 other people? Of course there are those times when He is speaking through those mediums, but as His children, because of Jesus’ sacrifice and the gift of the Holy Spirit, we get the privilege of hearing directly from Him as well.
For some, I know this is a strange concept, this idea of waiting on God and sitting in His presence quietly. There is a skewed belief out there that we aren’t good enough to hear from Him directly. Or that a pastor or leader is the only one who can be enlightened by the Father. But that is simply not the case. He is a loving Father and is readily available to us; there is no more middle man! While it takes time to learn how to hear His voice, He does speak to us! Sometimes all it takes is simplifying what we’re doing, pulling away from the crowd and inviting Him to come, and then quieting our hearts in order to be able to hear Him. It is definitely a discipline, and not something that always comes easily, for the enemy is all about distracting us, but the longer you put it into practice, the easier it gets to tune out the rest of the world and focus on hearing the Father.
I want to encourage you to give it a try, if you never have. Even if you feel weird, sitting quietly, waiting, the Father is pleased by the simple fact that you are waiting on Him, and He will meet you there, one way or another. The most important thing is that we are looking to Him to fill our needs, and not a service, a song, a sermon, or even a person. In Him is all that we need.